Let’s close out the Easter Season with a few posts about our Easter celebrations. Our former rector, Fr. Clement Papa, now acts as a utility priest for the diocese – going to vacant parishes (there are sadly a large number of them) to celebrate the sacraments as needed. He invited us to go with him for Easter to a recently established parish located in a mountain valley between Mount Hagen and Wabag. The parish is named Tsinsibai (Zinzibai), so I, being poor with remembering names, referred to it as Zanzibar for about three weeks. We decided to leave on Good Friday for the bush, but before going, our family participated in our parish’s Good Friday procession.
So after furiously packing in the early morning, we set off for the outstation of Kala (previously mentioned in a post from Fall 2013) which is about a two hours walk up a dirt road along the Warakar River among the foothills north of us. We left a bit late and ended up just catching the very end of the procession, which was going down the other side of the River. We only caught up with those leading the stations of the cross around station 5. Still, it was good to process and pray (in tok pisin) with a few hundred of our fellow Catholics.
Among the Catholics in the area, making long Good Friday processions is the norm. It was interesting to hear of the plans of the other priests for their parishes. It is also a great sign of the people’s devotion, since for Fatima’s procession, the people had to walk at least two hours just to get to the starting place.
When the procession went by our seminary, Rebecca and the girls detached in order to make final preparations for Tsinsibai. I went on to the parish, venerated the Cross; and then we were off. We met Fr. Clement in the bishop’s headquarters in Hagen, and from there a driver from the archdiocese drove up as far as he could in a land rover. Also accompanying us was a native Mercy sister, Janice, who had earned a doctorate in theology and was now a professor in Australia. She was coming with us just for a quick trip home to Tsinsibai, I don’t have a picture of her because I did not understand how quick her stopover was!
We were not able to drive to Tsinsbai, because a bridge was out on the way there:
This is the Kaugel River, which flows from near our border with Wabag south towards the Southern Highlands. The river gorge was very beautiful.
We climbed up the steep road out of the gorge and entered Tsinsibai parish. There was a church, an outstation, in a clearing right at the top. We took a look inside, while a small army of children gathered to see Anastasia. Anne was feeling playful and ran towards the church. When the children followed, she circled back to the entrance of the clearing and left! A kind parishioner picked us up in his land rover and drove maybe about ten kilometers to the house that the people had built for priests.
The house was a bit strange. The first and second floors are not internally connected. We stayed on the top where there was a living room/dining room area, a kitchen, bathroom, and two bedrooms, while Fr. Clement stayed below where there was a giant meeting room, three tiny bedrooms, and a bathroom. The house had western furnishings and a gas stove, but everything, including the water system, was solar powered. The system had not been maintained well, such that only one thing could be turned on at a time and one turned on lights by connecting wires on the walls and ceilings to each other. There is a sad story behind the house. A missionary priest named Fr. Bogdan had lived here and had worked with the people to build and maintain the house. However, in the last year or so, a national priest was stationed here. He did not enjoy being in such a remote area and more or less left the house abandoned, preferring instead to commute in from Mount Hagen city. Eventually, this priest simply stopped coming – hence the need for Fr. Clement.
Thus, in a way, we were camping in this house. Due to the chilly nights, we slept in our sleeping bags. We prepared simple meals from scratch (albeit on a gas stove). At times, we carried the water we needed up the stairs. Still, it was good to get away for awhile.
The main church nearby was nice.
Traditionally in Catholic Churches, after the Holy/Maundy Thursday, the sanctuary is stripped and all the art is covered and a consecrated host is taken to a place in the Church especially decorated as a garden for this occasion. As I understand it, the garden represents both the Garden of Gethsemane and the idea of Jesus being buried in a garden (hence Mary thinking that the risen Lord is the gardener). In Tsinsibai, they did not cover the art, but they prepared a really nice Gethsemane.
Fr. Clement told us that the people of Tsinsibai are generally a bit more affluent than the average Highlander. Broccoli and potatoes are the reason. Being high up, Tsinsibai is colder than most of the Highlands (people tend to live in the valleys) and certain crops grow better there. Tsinsibia supplies most of the Western Highlands province with its broccoli and white potatoes (cabbages and cauliflower also grow well), such that when we buy potatoes in Banz, they are probably from Tsinsibai. We were welcomed to the house with the gift of a 50 pound bag of white potatoes. I, Brandon, enjoyed preparing different potato dishes for every single meal we ate here!